In Lancaster and Coatesville, Governor Wolf Continues Local Roundtables to Address Pennsylvania’s Opioid Epidemic

April 29, 2016

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf was joined by Rep. Mike Sturla, Rep. Bryan Cutler, Sen. Andy Dinniman, and Rep. Harry Lewis, as well as local officials, law enforcement, and health care professionals at two roundtables today to discuss local and statewide efforts to lead the nation in combating the opioid abuse and heroin use epidemic in Pennsylvania.

In an effort to confront this epidemic collaboratively, Governor Wolf is conducting roundtables statewide to discuss the initiatives of his administration, the state legislature, county agencies, treatment centers, hospitals, and medical schools. The Wolf Administration is eager to engage in these local conversations in order to listen to local officials about the challenges that they are facing.

“Fighting Pennsylvania’s opioid and heroin epidemic is a top priority for my administration,” said Governor Wolf. “These roundtables are an opportunity to work collaboratively with the General Assembly and community leaders to ensure Pennsylvania leads the nation in the fight to combat the opioid abuse and heroin use crisis.”

Governor Wolf was joined by a number of other state and local leaders at events in Lancaster and Coatesville. The governor lauded the efforts of Rep. Mike Sturla and Rep. Bryan Cutler at a roundtable at Lancaster General Hospital’s Burle Business Park location in the morning. In the afternoon, the governor touted the work of Sen. Andy Dinniman and Rep. Harry Lewis at Coatesville School District’s Benner Building.

“The heroin and opioid drug crisis in Pennsylvania is not going to simply fade away,” said Rep. Mike Sturla. “We need to work together, like the Lancaster County Anti-Heroin Task Force is doing, to address this problem countywide and statewide. I appreciate Governor Wolf coming here to learn how this crisis is affecting our county and what we are trying to do about it.”

“Opioid and heroin addiction is a health crisis that is robbing our Commonwealth and our nation of its most valuable resource – our young people. We simply cannot afford to let drugs gain a foothold in our communities and a get a grip on our young people,” Senator Dinniman said. “I want to thank the governor for his leadership on this issue and for coming to Coatesville to talk with community members about the heroin and opioid crisis facing our region. Chester County has already been a leader in getting Naloxone into the hands of those who need it. But we need to continue to expand the tools, resources, and support services necessary to save lives and help those suffering from drug abuse and addiction to turn their lives around.”

“Pennsylvania is in an opioid and heroin epidemic; we need to work together to combat this serious issue facing all Pennsylvanians,” said Representative Lewis.

The Wolf Administration hopes that these discussions are just the beginning of a larger conversation with both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate as well as local officials, law enforcement, emergency responders, and health care professionals.

“I look forward to continue working collaboratively with the General Assembly and community leaders to ensure Pennsylvania leads the nation in the fight to combat the opioid abuse and heroin use epidemic,” said Governor Wolf. “The magnitude of the addiction and overdose death epidemic in Pennsylvania is shocking: at least seven Pennsylvanians die every day from a drug overdose. With nearly 2,500 overdose deaths in Pennsylvania in 2014 and estimates that the 2015 total will be higher, a collaborative effort on the federal, state, and local levels is crucial in combating this crisis.”

Some of the administration’s initiatives in the fight against heroin include: signing a statewide standing order for naloxone, making it possible for all Pennsylvanians to access this life-saving drug; equipping the Pennsylvania State Police with naloxone so that those troopers who are first on the scene of an overdose can have another tool on-hand during these emergencies; partnering with Adapt Pharma to make Narcan available to public high schools across the state at no cost; developing the ABC-MAP prescription drug monitoring program to detect and prevent prescription fraud and abuse, which contribute to addiction; and appointing a director for the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) Office, who will work to ensure that the PDMP meets its goal of assisting healthcare professionals in identifying patients that would benefit from treatment.

In an effort to curtail drug addiction and curb the supply of excess drugs that can be used illicitly, the Department of Health is leading an effort to build upon the opioid prescribing guidelines already created, including specialty specific guidelines for emergency department providers, dentists, obstetricians and gynecologists, and pharmacists. These guidelines give healthcare providers direction for safe and effective pain relief practices, with greater emphasis on non-opioid therapies and greater caution to prevent addiction and diversion. In addition, the DOH recently joined dozens of healthcare organizations, medical experts, and consumer advocacy groups in signing petitions requesting changes to federal pain management requirements that are believed to foster dangerous prescribing practices.

DOH is also working with the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to develop the “warm hand-off” process, whereby overdose survivors would be taken directly from the emergency department to a licensed drug treatment provider, as well as Pennsylvania’s Prescription Drug Take-Back Program. This program helps communities properly dispose of unused prescriptions at any of the 400+ police station locations across Pennsylvania. To date, approximately 40,000 pounds of prescription drugs have been taken back and destroyed.

Governor Wolf’s decision to expand Medicaid eligibility in Pennsylvania under the Affordable Care Act has greatly increased access to treatment services for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians.

Finally, Governor Wolf’s proposed 2016-17 budget provides more than $34 million to treat more than 11,250 new individuals with substance use disorder. The Department of Human Services will provide 25 new Opioid Use Disorder Centers of Excellence for individuals with substance use disorder, providing medication-assisted treatment and appropriate wraparound services, such as cognitive-based therapies. After this first phase of implementation, there will be a push for 25 more facilities that would have the capacity to treat 22,500 individuals total.

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